PARIS (AP) — Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema skipped their trial Monday, with the two facing up to three years in prison if they are found guilty of soliciting an underage prostitute.
The criminal court trial had initially been set for last June but was adjourned for procedural reasons. It resumed Monday — but without Ribery or Benzema present. They are legally entitled to be represented by their lawyers instead, although their absence may make an unfavorable impression on the jury. Lawyers for both players said their clients would not attend any of the trial, which ends Thursday.
Self-described escort Zahia Dehar, now 21, contends Ribery flew her to Munich as a birthday present to himself in 2009 when she was under 18. She says she lied to the players and told them she was an adult. Dehar was also not present Monday.
"We have a truncated trial. On one hand the civil party (Dehar) who was, let's say, at the time the victim, who is no longer the victim and no longer considers herself one and therefore she is out of the trial," Ribery's lawyer, Carlo Alberto Brusa, said Monday. "On the other hand, I remind you that the prosecutor has recommended that the case be dismissed. By consequence, today, we have a trial without accusations."
Ribery is alleged to have had sex with Dehar three times — including at the home of Kamel Ramdani, 39, one of several people who are on trial after a probe into a suspected network of prostitutes operating out of a nightclub called "Zaman Cafe" on Paris' Champs-Elysees.
"As far as I'm concerned, I will do everything possible so that France and a leading football player will be cleared of everything," Brusa said.
The establishment was run by Georges Farhat, 30, who employed his younger brother, Elie Farhat, 26. Both were at the trial Monday.